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San Diego Padres

Over the past five years, few organizations have bartered their minor league system for Major League upgrades better than the Padres.  While I wouldn’t put anything past them, their system has been gutted to the point that I don’t see them being able to acquire premium Major League talent (think Juan Soto) until they re-stock. 

I’ve always liked Eguy Rosario, and he got a chance to show his wares in San Diego this season in a late-season call-up.  The upside is a full-time regular if he’s given the opportunity to play.  Jackson Merrill looked good in the fall league, and Sam Zavala has the tools to be an impact player one day.  Although he’s only 17, there is a long way to go.  Finally, the Padres are expected to sign Ethan Salas in early 2023.  He’s projected to be one of the top players in the class with impact potential.

If you like young players, you’ve come to the right place.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Jackson Merrill
  • Biggest Mover: Sam Zavala
  • Emerging Prospect: Ethan Salas

1. Jackson Merrill (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 SS
  • Tools Summary: He’s a high-floor player that lacks impact secondary skills.

The Padres drafted Jackson Merrill in the first round of the 2021 draft.  He’s a high-floor player with solid bat-to-ball skills but doesn’t have exciting fantasy tools.  He’s a tick above-average runner, but his swing plane is more geared to contact than power.  The Padres could add loft to his swing, pushing his power to 15 to 18 home runs annually, but I don’t see a 20+ home run bat. But, I think he hits, and when you combine that with 15 to 18 home run pop, and a handful of stolen bases, I think that makes him a Top 20 shortstop, maybe a little more.

2. Eguy Rosario (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: Growing power and an improved ability to control the strike zone gives him a ceiling of a full-time regular.

After a strong season in Double-A, Eguy Rosario repeated his performance in Triple-A, showing the ability to control the strike zone with speed and growing power.  As he’s grown stronger, many of his doubles from 2021 turned into home runs in 2022.  The Padres have him playing primarily at second, but he’s also gotten time at third and his natural position, shortstop.  The skills point to a full-time regular, but he likely profiles as a utility player in San Diego.

3. Dylan Lesko (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Highly decorated prep pitcher who had TJS last April.  The ceiling is enormous if he returns healthy and can live up to the hype.

Amateur scouts have followed Dylan Lesko for years.  He frequently participated in showcases showing a big fastball, the ability to spin a curve, and a plus (if not more) change-up.  He also threw strikes.  Coming into the 2022 season, he was viewed as a potential top 5 selection but had Tommy John Surgery in April.  Consequently, he fell to the Padres at pick 15, and time will tell if he was a steal.  He’s the definition of a high-risk, high-reward high school pitcher.

4. Sam Zavala (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025-26 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: A patient hitter with a swing that should allow him to hit with power in the future.

Despite starting 2022 late with a pulled hamstring, Sam Zavala still appeared in Complex League games as a 17-year-old.  The Padres didn’t waste time either and quickly promoted him to Low-A, where he played well.  He’s short to the ball with plenty of bat speed that should allow him to get to at least average future power.  Most importantly, he’s very patient at the plate and posted a 13.5% walk rate last season in Low-A.  He has a long way to go, but the Padres are terrific at signing and developing young Latin players like Zavala.  History says he’ll never play for the Padres, but I believe there’s a chance he’ll be a Major Leaguer.

5. Victor Lizarraga (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP with upside
  • Tools Summary: Projectable pitcher who pitched the entire season in Low-A as an 18-year-old.

Victor Lizarraga is starting to grow into his 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame.  I’m not sure how much weight he has put on, but he’s heavier now and, more importantly, is throwing harder.  He pitched well as an 18-year-old in Low-A, posting a 3.43 ERA while striking out a batter an inning and keeping his walk to just three per nine.  He’s still working on his secondary pitches, but he’s showing enough to project a ceiling of a number three starter.  The ceiling could go up if he can get his fastball to sit 95 to 96 MPH.

6. Robby Snelling (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Elite athlete with the tools to pitch at the top of the rotation.  That said, there is a long way to go.

The Padres went back-to-back high school pitchers in the 2022 draft selecting Dylan Lesko in the first round and left-hander Robby Snelling in the supplemental first round.  While Lesko has a higher ceiling, Snelling is highly athletic, with significant arm strength and the ability to spin a curve.  He was signed for nearly as much as Lesko ($3 million vs. $3.7 million).  While the promise is high, so is the risk.  But the Padres are great at identifying talent, and I have no concerns that the ceiling is exceptionally high.

7. Jay Groome (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: He no longer has the Ace raw stuff he showed in high school, but there’s still enough left to be an effective back-of-the-rotation starter in the Major Leagues.

The Padres acquired Jay Groome when they sent Eric Hosmer to the Red Sox at the deadline last July.  I’ve always liked Groome, but injuries have cost him dearly.  After TJS and shoulder problems, the velocity never returned to what it was in high school, and more importantly, the curveball is not nearly as sharp.  However, he’s a lefty with enough left in the tank to be a back-of-the-rotation starter for many years. 

8. Corey Rosier (OF)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF
  • Tools Summary: Top-of-the-chart speed who walks nearly as much as he strikes out.

The Padres do a great job at player acquisition.  Corey Rosier is a perfect example.  They drafted him in the 12th round in the 2021 Draft, and he managed to slash .242/.359/.371 with seven home runs and 40 stolen bases last season.  Given modest power, the upside might be a fourth outfielder at the highest level, but his contact skills, approach, and speed should make him a big leaguer.  From a fantasy standpoint, the speed alone makes him intriguing, and he should be considered in Dynasty Leagues that roster 200 or more minor leaguers.

9. Josh Mears (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: He has enormous power potential, but an alarming 44% strikeout rate is profoundly concerning.

Josh Mears has 70-grade power and swings hard on nearly every pitch.  He’ll hit some a long, long way as the bat speed is elite, but there is so much swing and miss in his game that I’m not sure he’ll ever be a full-time regular.  In High-A last season, he slugged .538 with 14 home runs but also struck out 44% of the time.  He pretty much did the same thing in his 24 games in Double-A. His walk rate was a little below average at 8%, but even if it were higher, his contact skills are so concerning Dynasty League that owners need to ponder long and hard before rostering him.

10. Adam Mazur (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  DNP ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP or Middle Reliever
  • Tools Summary: He has good size and a decent enough arsenal to project as a back-of-the-rotation starter or middle reliever.

After an unspectacular two years at South Dakota State, Adam Mazur transferred to the University of Iowa for his Junior year, and things clicked.  He threw more strikes with an improved arsenal, and the results got him selected in the second round last July by the Padres.  At 6-foot-3, he has the size you want for a starter but needs to continue improving his secondary pitches to stay in the rotation.  The upside is a number four starter or a middle reliever.

11. Nerwilian Cedeno (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Middle Infielder with upside.
  • Tools Summary: He’s a pesky hitter with solid speed and a chance to hit for some modest power eventually.

I saw Nerwilian Cedeno play in the Fall League in October, and while I wouldn’t say his upside is that of an impact player, he’s a pesky hitter with an approach who should make enough contact to get a chance at the highest level. He has above-average speed and the opportunity to hit with a bit of power as he gets stronger.  He looks like he’ll be limited to second base, so expanding his offensive game is critical for his development.

12. Ethan Salas (C)

  • Highest Level:  Expected to sign in 2023 ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Unknown
  • Tools Summary: He’s considered one of the best prospects in the 2023 international class.

Ethan Salas is projected to sign with the Padres in January and is considered one of the best players in his class.  He’s the younger brother of Marlins’ Jose Salas.  He has a chance to be a plus hitter with excellent hand-eye-coordination and strike zone awareness.  There’s plenty of bat speed to project future power and enough athleticism for him to stay behind the plate long-term.  Should fantasy managers be running out to sign a 16-year-old catcher?  Probably not, but I would pay close attention to this one.

13. Yendry Rojas (SS)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 SS with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Athletic with a feel to hit.

Cuban shortstop Yendry Rojas was signed by the Padres last January for a robust $1.3 million signing bonus.  He played well in the DSL, showing a feel to hit, and walking nearly as much as he struck out.  He’s a solid-average runner that will likely slow as he fills out, but the added size should add power to the profile.  You can squint and see a full-time regular, but he’s only 17 with a long way to go.

14. Oliver Carrillo (OF/1B)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 1B with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: He has considerable raw power with some swing-and-miss in his game.

The Padres signed Oliver Carrillo out of Mexico in 2021 and got him onto the field in the DSL last season.  He played well, showing solid power (nine home runs and a .640 SLG).  The swing can get long, so there likely will be swing-and-miss in his game.  He also split his time between first base and the outfield, but given his large lower half, a move full-time to first base is likely in the cards.

15. Hugo Sanchez (1B)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Utility player with extreme risk.
  • Tools Summary: He shows a feel to hit with a bit of speed and the chance for some future power.

Hugo Sanchez walked more than he struck out in 41 games last season in the DSL.  He’s athletic and able to play all over the field, but he got the most at-bats at first base.  He needs to get stronger, as he only slugged .397 last season, which was significantly better than what he posted in 2021 at the same level.

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